Luongo Looks to Rebound in Game 4

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove Creative Editor

Monday night, Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo gave up eight goals in a single NHL game for just the third time in his career.  With no doubt about the outcome of the contest for much of the third period, it was curious that Luongo was still in the Canucks’ crease instead of backup Cory Schneider.

I thought at 4‑0, going at the beginning of the third with a power‑play, we might be able to do something,” Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault explained after the 8-1 pounding by the Boston Bruins in Game 3.  “That’s why I kept him in.  At 5‑1, I asked him what he wanted to do.  He said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out’, so that’s what I did.”

Jim Rogash / Getty Images

Luongo confirmed as much.

Alain asked me when there was about eight minutes left,” he said.  ”I said I wanted to stay in.  If I would have known they would have scored three more times, I might have thought about it (laughs).  Even though we were losing 5-1, it was a pretty intense game and I still wanted to be in there.”

The Bruins would go on to score three more goals in a span of just 1:50 late in the game, with the final tally coming with only 31 seconds remaining.

They kept putting the pressure on,” Luongo said yesterday in an off-day interview.  “The game was pretty much out of reach for us.  I don’t know, I mean, they obviously were not satisfied with 5-1 and kept pressing.  We started maybe taking our attention away from our game plan, started worrying about physical aspects of the game, which we shouldn’t be doing at this point.”

the Game 3 loss was the first bit of adversity that the Canucks have had to face in these Finals.  Will the fact that those three late goals came on Boston’s final three shots of the game - further bludgeoning a Vancouver squad who had done pretty much everything right in the first two contests of the series – have a carry-over affect into tonight’s Game 4?

The former-team captain doesn’t seem to think so.  He believes both he and the Canucks will be just fine, as long as they just get back to basics.

The score doesn’t really matter,” the 32-year-old goaltender said yesterday of the loss.  ”We’re in the playoffs.  It’s all about winning a game, right?  As a team, we got to look at it we lost a game.  We just got to get back to doing the things we do.  No matter what the score of the game is, we have to keep playing our game, not deviate from our game plan.”

Winger Daniel Sedin said the blowout loss wasn’t all Luongo’s fault, and he has every confidence that his netminder will be ready for Game 4 tonight.

That’s not a problem (Luongo’s ability to bounce back),” Daniel said.  ”Can’t really say it was his fault.  As a team, we didn’t help him out.

Prior to Monday’s rout, Luongo had yielded just six goals in his previous four games.  Over the course of those four contests, Luongo stopped 151 of 157 shots – a staggering .962 save percentage.

Included in this postseason have been two clutch, classic overtime wins in series-clinching games.

After jumping out to a 3-0 games lead in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, Luongo was pulled in both Games 4 and 5, and began Game 6 on the bench.  He not only started Game 7, but turned in a 31-save gem in a 2-1 overtime triumph to help Vancouver take the series.

The triumph exorcised the demons associated with the past playoff horrors experienced by the Canucks at the hands of the Blackhawks.

In the Western Conference Final clinching 3-2 victory in Game 5 over the San Jose Sharks, Luongo turned in a spectacular double-OT, 54-save gem.

He has outdueled three excellent netminders thus far.  He has outplayed rookie Corey Crawford, last year’s Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi, and Pekka Rinne.

Now he must do the same with slinky-for-a-spine, acrobatic Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas.

Even Luongo’s harshest critics have to acknowledge that he has proven himself, and he has quieted their sometimes misguided disparaging remarks.  He has shown himself capable of playing at the highest-possible level, and may just add a Stanley Cup victory to the Gold Medal he captured for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

A huge determining factor to that end will be how well he and his teammates play tonight in Game 4.  A win will allow his club to take a stranglehold 3-1 lead heading back to Vancouver.  A loss will put the Bruins back on even footing, and the murmurs of the Canucks allowing the series to slip away will begin to get louder.

Luongo isn’t about to sit back and feel sorry for himself after the Game 3 beat down.  He seems well-focused on the situation at hand.

I waited my whole life to be here (Stanley Cup Finals),” Luongo said.  ”I’m not going to put my head down.  It’s time to get back to work.
Obviously last night (Monday) was disappointing for all of us.  We have a great opportunity.  We’re in the Cup final.  Even though there are going to be some tough times, you have to be in the moment and focus.”


If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle